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IBM Shakes Up DB2

IBM Corp.'s next release of its DB2 universal database, version 8.1, will come with much lower prices for mid-market customers and higher prices for enterprise customers, especially for those deploying high-end clustered configurations. DB2 8.1 for Windows, Linux, and Unix will ship on November 21.

Jeff Jones, director of strategy for IBM data management solutions, says that in DB2 8.1, Big Blue has reshuffled its DB2 version lineup. IBM is combining its former DB2 single user and personal editions into a new DB2 8.1 Personal Edition. IBM will also consolidate its high-end DB2 products, Enterprise Edition and Enterprise Extended Edition, into a new Enterprise Server Edition.

Pricing for DB2 8.1 Personal Edition should stay the same, as will pricing for the base-level Workgroup Edition – which IBM has renamed “Workgroup Server Edition.” Like its predecessor, Workgroup Server Edition will sell for a flat $969 per server, no matter how many processors are used. IBM will continue to offer two licensing options – concurrent and named – at $249 per user, for up to 100 users. As of DB2 8.1, however, IBM will offer customers unlimited user licenses for Workgroup Server Edition at $7,500 per processor for any Internet-based application – a price drop of almost 50 percent. Unlimited User Licenses for Workgroup Edition currently cost $14,000 per processor.

“The idea here is to open Workgroup Server up to Internet-based applications and remove the idea of counting users,” says IBM’s Jones. “This represents a price reduction for the mid-market. We see a huge opportunity in the midrange, for mid-size and small businesses.”

Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with research firm Current Analysis Inc., says that with DB2 8.1, IBM is explicitly targeting Oracle Corp., the current market leader.

“IBM is being very aggressive with the pricing of [DB2 8.1] because it’s trying to get market share at Oracle’s expense. First, it bought Informix. Now, it’s lowered prices on [the Workgroup Server Edition] of DB2,” he says. “It senses that it can steal share away from Oracle in the mid-market, where [Oracle] is perceived as being the more expensive of the two databases.”

Prior to the consolidation of its high-end DB2 product lines, IBM offered non-clustered (Enterprise Edition) and clustered (Extended Enterprise Edition) versions of DB2 – available at price points of $20,000 and $25,000 per processor, respectively.

As of DB2 8.1, the base price of Enterprise Server Edition will go up – way up – to $25,000 per processor. A clustering option – which exploits a new technology, Database Partitioning – is available for an additional $7,500 per processor. That brings the total cost of DB2 8.1 Enterprise Server Edition with the Database Partitioning to $32,500 per processor – an increase of 30 percent.

Jones says that the price increase is offset for high-end customers by DB2 8.1’s new performance enhancements, which include a new multi-dimensional cluster facility that allows the database to group related data together across multiple dimensions to speed up queries.

“This is not out of line for previous increases for us, [and] it reflects our belief of the value the upgrade,” he says, and argues that Oracle Corp.’s Oracle 9i database is “significantly” more expensive than DB2.

One customer that could potentially be impacted by IBM’s pricing changes is Clarity Payment Solutions, a debit card transaction processing outfit. Tim Kuchlein, Clarity’s director of information systems, says that when his company first began pricing relational database management systems (RDBMS) a couple of years ago, it submitted requests for proposals to Oracle, IBM, Sybase and Microsoft. Oracle came back with a price that was significantly higher than any of the other vendors, Kuchlein relates, and Clarity eventually chose Big Blue’s DB2 Workgroup Edition with an unlimited user license.

Since that time, Kuchlein says, Clarity has determined to move to DB2 Enterprise Server Edition. While he acknowledges that DB2 becomes a more expensive proposition – especially on large, clustered SMP systems – Kuchlein believes it’s certainly a worthwhile upgrade.

“It’s obviously become more expensive than it used to be, but I still think that for a lot of companies, it’s going to be an upgrade well worth the money,” he asserts, citing DB2 8.1’s ease of use and new self-tuning capabilities.

In addition to its pricing concessions for the mid-market, IBM’s new version of DB2 features a “Configuration Advisor” that uses wizards called “Smart Guides” to help an IT organization optimize a database for many implementations without the involvement of a dedicated database administrator (DBA).

“[The Configuration Advisor] condenses what an expert DBA using about three days of time can do, [such as] hand tuning or hand setting several parameters to get optimal performance,” Jones says. “With this tool, an inexperienced DBA takes about 20 minutes [to tune DB2] and gets about 95 percent of the performance.”

Typical questions posed by DB2’s Configuration Advisor deal with the kinds of workloads – transactional, decision support, a mixture of the two – that the database will be expected to support.

DB2 8.1 also exploits a number of self-diagnostic and monitoring features, which are the result of IBM’s Project eLiza, an initiative to build self-managing capabilities into many of Big Blue’s products. To that end, DB2 8.1’s new “Health Center” aggregates a number of monitoring and alerting capabilities under one common hood, Jones says, and can even recommend specific courses of action in the event of a problem.

“It’s not at all simple. [DB2] can get very if-then in its suggestions. If something is wrong, DB2 suggests some very specific actions,” he says.

Current Analysis’ Schiff says that DB2’s tuning wizards could be a boon to mid-market organizations that don’t have the resources to support a dedicated DBA.

“They put some decision rules in there based on people’s usage experience, and that lets them basically tune the database for you. They’ve done some very clever things to make it so that you don’t need a dedicated ‘priest-hood’ of DBAs,” he says.

According to Wayne Kernochan, managing vice president of platform infrastructure with consultancy Aberdeen Group, users will also benefit from IBM’s ongoing effort to develop its own database administration tools and utilities.

“This used to be the major revenue source for [Computer Associates Int’l Inc.] and CompuWare, and we’d regularly get complaints from users that the software licensing costs for things like that were significant,” Kernochan says. “In addition to its price cuts on DB2 [8.1], IBM is getting very aggressive pricing on its database administration tools, too, which means that the overall solution cost has gone down significantly.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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